AT&T Builds On Its Network On Demand Platform, Adds NFV Managed Service

AT&T is putting network functions virtualization (NFV) into the hands of its end customers.

Network Functions on Demand is a managed service that lets businesses make adjustments to their networking services through virtualized functions deployed on one piece of on-premise equipment -- a standard x86-based appliance -- instead of through several disparate routers, firewalls, or WAN optimizers.

The Dallas-based carrier did not respond by publication time to CRN's request for comment on the latest service's availability through the channel, or if partners would be able to manage the latest service for their customers.

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Network Functions on Demand is the third service to be added to AT&T's Network on Demand platform, a system launched in 2014 that businesses can use to add or change their network services in near real-time. The latest service joins AT&T's Switched Ethernet on Demand, and Managed Internet Service on Demand offerings on the Network on Demand platform. Those two services were sold strictly through direct sales channels initially, but subsequently became available through AT&T's Alliance Channel partners in March 2016.

The latest Network Functions on Demand will let businesses manage four different network functions initially, according to AT&T. The first virtualized functions the carrier is making available to customers is Juniper Networks' virtual routing, Cisco's virtual router offering, Fortinet's virtual security capability, and Riverbed's virtual WAN optimization.

Because the new service can be run on AT&T's own universal Customer Premises Equipment (uCPE), a standard or ’white-box’ appliance, the offering will help customers save money on the hardware side, AT&T said.

AT&T said it will continue to add new products and features based on in-house technology, as well as from other technology partners down the road.

Business customers are looking to separate themselves from a single carrier strategy. Reducing hardware requirements is also appealing to many customers, said John Hudson, director of service provider solutions at Lumenate, a Dallas-based IT consulting firm and AT&T partner that services midmarket and enterprise customers.

"Our customers are asking for more features to give them flexibility. Their networks have changed because centralized infrastructure no longer works because of cloud applications. Network virtualization allows them to decentralize … these higher-up-the-stack offerings will help carriers become more relevant to their customers," Hudson said.

Despite the carrier not confirming whether or not channel partners will have immediate access to the latest service, Lumenate would be interested in offering the service to its clients, Hudson said.

"I think we'd be able to grab onto it quicker than some of the typical agent [partners] because we have those engineering and architecture resources because of our reseller business," he said.

The latest service, much like AT&T's Switched Ethernet on Demand, and Managed Internet Service on Demand, runs on AT&T's distributed cloud architecture housed in the carrier's 74 AT&T Integrated Cloud (AIC) data centers.

Network Functions on Demand is now available in 76 countries and territories, the largest initial rollout of an AT&T service, according to the carrier. Territories included are the U.S., specific countries within South and Central America, as well as countries within Asia-Pacific and Europe.

AT&T has been on a software-defined networking tear. The carrier has been injecting virtualization within its own network before exposing those capabilities to its end customers in the form of Network on Demand. AT&T has publicly committed to virtualize 75 percent of its own network by 2020.